CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The CDC reported what it calls a “troubling” drop in routine vaccinations for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency said while families followed public health warnings about staying home during the pandemic, “an unfortunate result was many missed routine vaccinations.”
Dr. Elizabeth Mack, MUSC Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care, said ultimately, we experienced that drop in South Carolina, too.
“And right now, we do worry that herd immunity doesn’t exist because so many people are behind,” Dr. Mack said. “In the midst of a pandemic, one thing we definitely don’t need is the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. While people are talking quite a bit about COVID vaccine, we already have a large number of very safe and effective vaccines out there.”
“Now is the time to go ahead and make those appointments,” said Tracie Horton, Ladson Elementary School’s nurse.
Horton said CCSD nurses are reminding parents that doctors' offices are safe for routine vaccine visits.
Some shots are required by state law.
“If you’re remote or virtual - even if you’re virtual for 9 weeks - you’re still counted as part of our attendance. We may be calling you and you say, ‘But I’m virtual.’ But you still have to comply,” Horton explained.
Your child’s immunization records or exemption forms are due within 30 days of the start of school. For those who started school this past Tuesday in the TriCounty, that deadline would be Oct. 8.
School nurses must submit a compliance report to DHEC 45 days after the start of school.
DHEC’s website says students in 5K to grade 12 in public and private schools need to be up-to-date on Hepatitis A and B, Dtap, polio, MMR, chickenpox and the whooping cough booster.
Health experts highly recommend a flu shot, too.
Horton said, “If we look like in a couple weeks we can go to 50% [in-person capacity] like the Superintendent is hoping, they have 30 days to comply from the first day of school. I certainly wouldn’t want to not let a student come in to school because they didn’t have all their immunizations.”
Even providing proof of an upcoming vaccine appointment is helpful for school nurses.
“This is a top concern for folks,” said Joey Current, Trident United WayHealth Services Manager. "And many people in our community do not have a primary care physician.
Current said, “Trident United Way knows that many of our communities face barriers that prevent access to some of these essential health services like routine vaccines. These barriers range from lack of affordable health insurance, lack of transportation, lack of health care services in some areas.”
TUW’s Healthy TriCounty program lists several no cost and low-cost health resources for parents online.
Current said they are planning to help out with a mobile vaccine van through MUSC in October, too.
We will release those dates and details when they are available.
“It’s really important that we aren’t all-consumed with COVID-19 and forget about some of these other childhood immunizations that schools require. Those are just as important right now,” Current said.
While we don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine yet, these heath experts said it’s essential to protect kids from diseases we can prevent.
SCDHEC says the only available immunization exemptions in South Carolina are for medical or religious reasons.
Personal reasons are not accepted in our state.
Exemption forms must be signed and notarized and can be picked up in person from a county health department location